Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The other day Audrey (9) asked me what makes a poem a poem and not a story or just a bunch of words. She likes poetry to rhyme, but of course not everything that people call poetry rhymes, so she was understandably confused.
Aren't we all.
I suggested we call Matt, a friend of ours who teaches High School English. "Why? Is Matt a poet?"
Later I posed the question to Matt in an email. He said it's a hard question. Like asking what makes art art. Then asked her to read this, posing the question of whether it is poetry, or just a note to Mrs. Williams.
THIS IS JUST TO SAY
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
-William Carlos Williams
She read it, puzzled over it a bit, then said, through a chuckle, "I guess it's a poem because it has a title."
I think it's great that she said it as a joke, then got serious. Kind of like the modus operandi of a Hollywood Stars actor. Make a joke, then act serious.
Ultimately, she decided that she couldn't decide. "It's not a poem, but it's not a note, a story, or a letter either." Then, throwing her hands up in exasperation, "I don't know what it is."
For me, the first answer is the best. George Costanza, when asked by the NBC president why people will be watching the show he and Jerry were pitching, responded, "Because it's on TV."
So, if it's in a museum it's art. If it's in a book of poetry it's a poem. Good enough for me.
at 7:15 AM
Friday, September 21, 2007
Everyone's talking about the Landis decision.
Cycling News. ESPN. The New York Times. Neil. Douche bags. But if you're going to read any of it, try the commentary by Bonnie Ford and, by far the most thoughtful news coverage of the decision, the Velo News article, which includes the full text of the 2:1 majority decision, as well as the dissent.
Without offering an opinion as to guilt, what strikes me as particularly odd, frustrating, and potentially sinister about this plot line are the vagaries and ambiguities that you and I, the cycling fan public, are left to digest. Take this for instance, from the Velo News article:
The majority of the panel found that while the initial testosterone-epitestosterone test was not "established in accordance with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories," the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ratio analysis (IRMS), performed as a follow-up was accurate. As a result, "an anti-doping rule violation is established," said the majority....
The finding means that Landis was cleared of the initial positive T/E violation, but now faces a two-year suspension because the IRMS test did show the presence of exogenous testosterone.
Let me explain what I think this means. Remember that doping charges were first brought to bear against Landis for having an elevated T/E ratio after his amazing stage 17 ride. Eleven to one, if I remember correctly, far above the four to one limit. The ruling by the panel of three arbitrators cleared Landis of this charge, citing unreliable testing procedures by the French lab that preformed the tests.
However, after the initial test and--importantly--because of the results of the first test, additional tests were conducted to determine if the elevated T/E ratio was due to the presence of an artificial testosterone, which would be corroborating evidence of doping. The panel of three arbitrators, while also citing problems with the lab's work in performing this analysis, upheld the validity of the results to this second test.
Now, the extent of my legal training is essentially Law & Order 101, but I would think that in a regular American court evidence that is obtained as a direct result of other evidence that was later determined to have been obtained through procedural error or negligence would have to be held in serious question. And that the defense would then have a reasonable argument for the dismissal of the entire case.
In other words, there are two pieces of evidence against Landis, piece of evidence A and piece of evidence B. B was only obtained because of A. Had A not appeared, no one would have thought to or wanted to check for B. So when you determine that A can't be trusted due to a botched, unreliable process, don't you then have a strong argument against incrimination by B?
Perhaps you're shrugging your shoulders and thinking, "I don't know." Well, you're not alone. But this is where the real madness begins. With all these ambiguities, and a 2:1 decision that, while upholding the doping charge, castigates the reliability of the testing procedures, how does Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI, get off saying things like this:
He has been found guilty. It proves that the system works no matter who you are.
First, a guilty finding proves the system works? What?! Digesting this stretch of logic makes my head spin.
Second, if there's anything to conclude from this it is that the system is a rattle-trap jalopy of an excuse for justice--it may or may not get us to the truth, but if it does, it is only slowly (a decision, now, 13 1/2 months after the initial charge), inefficiently, and in a manner which inspires little confidence.
Then you have Travis Tygart, USADA CEO, saying:
Today's ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition.
I don't know what the decision says for fair and honest competition, but it most certainly is not a victory for fair and honest judicial procedures for athletes accused of doping.
at 6:42 AM
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Yesterday. Oh man...
So yesterday starts early. I wake up at 5:55. I didn't mean to. The alarm is set for 6:30. And there's time built in for at least one snooze. But I wake up at 5:55. I decide to go for a run.
I have a sorted relationship with running--more on that later, perhaps--but running has become a fall cross-training tradition of sorts and, with the cyclocross season pending, I figured I ought to start sooner than later. After 20 minutes I'm not tired, but I can tell I'm going to feel the effort in my legs later.
Fast forward half the day. It's 2:45 and I'm out the door for a ride. I haven't been out the prior two days so I'd like to ride long. Something hilly. For three hours. At least.
I can feel the run in my legs. Forty-five minutes in I reach down to feel my calves and they're like rocks. But after about 90 minutes they feel better. Loosened up. The weather is beautiful. It's a good day to be on a bike ride.
Then, disaster. My dérailleur hanger snaps in two.
I'm about a mile southeast of here. No cell phone coverage. A car passes by about every five minutes. I of course don't have any tools so I can't get the dérailleur off the chain. I can't ride, so I start walking. I figured if I went south I wouldn't find a phone until Big Flat. So I went north. Downhill.
But of course I didn't want to have to walk. Walking in cycling shoes is awful, so I took my shoes off and walked in my socks. But on chip-sealed roads that's no picnic either. So I try to thumb a ride. I didn't think it would take long. I've done a bit of hitch-hiking and my experience has been positive. Especially in the mountains, with gear. People see you with gear and figure you're just out recreating, not hoboing, and they give you rides. I've given people rides. But yesterday I WALKED FOR ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES before someone stopped to pick me up. Unbelievable.
Finally, I got to somewhere that I could use my cell phone (Mt. Holly Springs*) and I called a friend (thank you, Lane) to come get me. While I waited, I put down an order of Moo Gai Pan from a Chinese take-out place and called my sister to wish her happy birthday. I finally got home just after 8:00.
*How I ended up in Mt. Holly Springs from where I was is another story. It clearly would have been better to be picked up by someone going the other direction, or someone willing to make the quick jaunt over the hill on 233, but when someone finally stopped, I wasn't going to get particular about where they were going.
at 11:38 AM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
The weekend was enhanced by a thirteen-mile rip-roaring little jaunt through southern Michaux. The results aren't up yet, so I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure I beat the second place rider by about six minutes.
Racing the short courses at the Michaux Endurance Series is so fun I'm not sure I want to try anything else.
(I actually felt kind of bad about doing the "beginner" race...and I would have done the 25-miler--which I heard was actually 32 miles--were it not for other commitments. As it was, I had to race and run, which I hate. I barely had time to congratulate #2 as he was finishing--I was already changed, packed, and halfway out of the parking lot when I saw him roll by.)
at 11:16 AM
I don't know who this person is (though he apparently graduated from the U. of Maryland in 1980 and there is a scholarship in chemical engineering there named in his honor), but as a memorial to him I raced around an eight-mile loop in the Maryland countryside a bunch of times.
The last road race of the season and I think my fitness has finally returned. I felt good, rode an aggressive race--attacking out of the field countless times to either initiate or bridge gaps--and found myself in a few good breaks, but nothing panned out. That is to say, nothing panned out for me. After the pack finally did let a group get away an official neutralized us to let the 1-2 field pass. I don't know if he also later neutralized the break, but even if he did they couldn't have been stopped for as long as we were, and that pretty much ended that.
Later, when racing picked up again in the field, I bridged a gap only to find the nascent break hampered by an official keeping us from passing the now more slowly moving 1-2 field. Later, they neutralized and we passed. Ridiculous.
Despite (wisely) not contesting a crash-marred finish, I felt good with the effort. I felt strong, recovered quickly from my efforts, and rode an aggressive race. It felt good to be a bike racer on Saturday.
at 10:43 AM
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I can't remember if it was Cycling News or Velo News, but one of the two the other day was soliciting reader comments on the question of which of the three grand tours fans liked best. As I was looking for just about any excuse to avoid work, I responded. They didn't publish it, so I'll post my letter here.
You asked which of the three-week events is my favorite.
For my money, it’s still the Tour. The reason, more than anything else, is that everyone goes. It’s less a French tour than it is the world’s tour. The Giro is too full of Italians. The Vuelta too full of Spanish. But everyone goes to the Tour.
In my late-night fantasies, the stars, the real GC contenders, would bring their A game to every grand tour. But as I recognize that isn’t practical, or perhaps not even possible, I wish that there were some kind of tacit agreement that everyone who is anyone would race in at least two of the three events. And when I say race, I mean really race. Nothing diminishes a rider’s credibility more in my eyes than to hear him say he is doing a particular race “for training.” Sure, you can’t legitimately give every race your all, and we all race to train, but this kind of media-facilitated gamesmanship of fan expectations is disingenuous at best, and clearly diminishes the significance of the event for those who did come to compete. Yet another reason I like the Tour best—no one comes to the Tour “for training.”
at 12:06 PM
Although I've now lived in Shippensburg for a year, for some reason I've neither ridden nor driven the section of State Route 233 between Mount Alto and US Route 30, though I've ridden and driven US Route 30 several times, and ridden and driven to or past Mount Alto several times.
Anyway, yesterday's route took me along that section of road for the first time, from the south northward, and it was a remarkably nice place to ride a bike. From Mount Alto the climbing begins immediately, but it's my kind of climb--a long and relatively shallow graded climb. If you're feeling good, big ring climbing. Like King's Gap, or most of the South Mountain climb from the Shippensburg side.
And what a great day to be riding in the mountains. Temperatures were in the mid 70s in the valley, maybe a degree or two cooler back in the woods. Rides on days like yesterday are why I'm a cyclist.
The route: Ship to Mount Alto via White Church Rd, Mt Pleasant Rd, and Mt Alto Rd. From Mount Alto, State Route 233 north past Caledonia, South Mountain, and nearly to Pine Grove Furnace. From there back over the ridge and southwest to Ship via Pine Rd and Walnut Bottom Rd. Total ride time: 3:20.
at 11:43 AM
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Yesterday. Labor Day. I labored.
Yesterday's plan was for 90 second hill repeats. Sixty seconds of pretty darn hard*, then the last 30 seconds out of the saddle for an all-I-am-worth sort of effort. I manged seven.
For the task, I found a nice little steep-ish hill just outside of town to throw down on. Or throw up on. Either one.
After my first interval I notice them there. I wave. I smile. Sheepishly. From them: nothing.
After my second interval I notice them again. Their eyes are glued to me. I nod. I smile. Still no response.
Again and again I huff and puff my way up this hill. I'm getting a little louder with each ascent. There is guttural groaning. I'm throwing the bike from side to side wildly. I'm loud. I'm visible. But no response from the spectators. To them, I was a Martian.
I tried harder. I went faster, groaned louder, sprinted more wildly. Anything for a response. Nothing. I, alien.
Nonetheless, they lessened the pain. I wasn't working out, I was performing. Spectator value.
*I say "pretty darn hard" because my PowerTap is down and I couldn't gauge exactly how hard. But if I'd had it, I'd been shooting for around 420-440 watts, then 500+ for the last 30 seconds. And my PowerTap is down, I presume, because the batteries in the hub are dead. But I can't replace the batteries in the hub because I haven't been able to get the hub cover off. It's very frustrating.
at 11:42 AM